I thought it would be useful to prepare a more easygoing top-level chatbot guide.
Instead of going technical and niche for roles like marketers or CTOs, below is an overview of our industry.
Interestingly, keeping out of the weeds was quite a challenge; I hope you will find it useful.
What is a chatbot?
A chatbot is a computer program that enables people to get information from machines in a natural, conversational, way using text and voice.
Like any other computer programs, they are a gateway to information or services. They offer the lowest barrier to entry for getting information from a computer, because you just talk to them like you do any other human.
Not quite sure you understand? Read our chatbot definition for not so technical people.
Where do chatbots live?
Text chatbots can live in most digital two-way conversation channels. Anywhere you can communicate with people; you can probably deploy a chatbot too. This includes channels like Facebook Messenger, websites, Slack, Skype, Telegram, Reddit, WeChat, WhatsApp (kinda), SMS and much more.
Voice chatbots tend to live in either our mobile phones or home assistants. Alexa (Amazon), Siri (Apple) and Home (Google) all have some form of two-way voice communication. Other home speaker systems like Sonos tend to integrate with one of the big three above, rather than building their own voice tech.
What can chatbots do?
Chatbots provide humans with the ability to get information from a machine, bypassing the more traditional types of input devices like a keyboard or mouse.
This means that chatbots can (almost) do anything with a computer that you could do for yourself.
Right now, broad-knowledge chatbots are very hard to build, so we’re seeing niche solutions. Rather than a single chatbot that can do everything (ordering food, retrieving info from the web, checking the weather and news etc.), we have chatbots that specialise in just the ordering of food, productivity, grabbing the weather and finding the headlines.
Right now, chatbots are a bit like mobile applications when they first came about. Remember the whole “there’s an app for that” debacle?
Chatbots can sell you things, send you content, remind you of your next appointment, perform customer service and internal communication. Potentially, anything you would speak to a person about or do on a computer is ripe for chatbot-ification.
How do chatbots help?
When built the right way, chatbots help in a whole host of ways.
For people, it’s the ability to get knowledge on-demand via our preferred channel. It's the centralisation of information and the ability to ask questions you may not want to ask a fellow human. It’s the potential to get unbiased, accurate and (sometimes) entertaining information.
For me, the first one is the exciting one. Almost real-time information moving from the world’s database (internet) into your brain -- amazing. This is only going to speed up as technology improves (and we all get chatbots implanted in our head).
For business, it’s the freeing up of time by passing on the routine communication and tasks to machines. Chatbots enable staff to do more with less and focus on the bits of the role only humans can do. It’s the centralisation of information, being available to employees and consumers on-demand and cross-channel.
What does a chatbot cost?
In some ways, you can compare developing a chatbot to building a website.
What if you asked someone: 'how much does a website cost?'
Well, a fully bespoke, designed and multi-lingual, global e-commerce platform with 400,000 products, forums, lead automation, a blog and all powered by state-of-the-art database and server infrastructure is going to cost a little bit more than a WordPress one-pager, right?
It’s the same as a chatbot.
You can go on a chatbot building platform and make the equivalent of a WordPress solution yourself. Click here, drag there, push that and hey presto! You have a chatbot.
You can also speak to us and have your wildest chatbot dreams built from scratch (you dream about chatbots too, right? It's not just me?).
So, the cost is from £0 to how long is a piece of string. Just contact us, we don’t bite (you might just talk to a machine anyway...).
How long do chatbots take to build?
This question goes hand in hand with the one above.
That one-page WordPress site is going to get smashed out in an hour, but the massive multi-national site? Well, that’s going to take a while.
We build smart stuff. The go-to number is around three to six weeks to deliver. It depends on how complicated we need to develop your bespoke NLU and whether we have to connect to any of your API endpoints or systems. If we do, the responsibility send us all the stuff we need to move forward falls on you, which may or may not slow us down.
Interested in learning our entire chatbot development process? We made it public! Have a read.
What security issues do chatbots pose?
I wrote like 1,000,000 words about this (I may be exaggerating), have a click here for a readeroo.
What do people think about chatbots?
Us ubians often wonder the same thing. Who knows what goes on people’s noggins? Half the time I don’t even know what my wife means when she’s talking out loud, let alone what goes on in her head; I prefer machines.
To help us answer this exact question, we commissioned a top-tier independent research company to gauge the UK consumer's attitude towards chatbots.
Our 2017 chatbot report paints a picture of consumers’ current and future expectations of chatbots. It also gives insight to brands looking to take advantage of it.
It helped us learn what consumers want from a chatbot, how companies can benefit from deploying a chatbot solution and how to delight your customers with the experience.
Where can I buy a chatbot?
Easy one this ;) by clicking this link...
What does the future hold for chatbots?
I’m going to have to control myself here. I could write a War and Peace-sized response to this question alone.
In a nutshell, chatbots and their ability to lower barriers to the world’s information will present an exciting and unpredictable range of outcomes.
The only thing I’m sure of is chatbot technology (NLP, ML and tech from the broader field of AI) will soon become a part of the everyday business and consumer experience.
It will flow through every business process and system from answering phones, bookkeeping, and high-level strategy. If you want a deeper dive into my tea leaves, you can read this.